The UMTS Forum will be helping 3G operators push for flexibility in their licences, president Jean-Pierre Bienaim has said.
Bienaim told Mobile Europe that there should be room for "dialogue" between operators and regulators on 3G licences. Examples for negotiation could be keeping the same lunch date targets, but extending the duration of the licences. This would make the business model "more interesting and sustainable", he said.
"Also in terms of coverage and the degree of coverage there is scope to be more pragmatic in the rhythm of coverage," he added.
Bienaim also said the Forum views network sharing as a something it would support on a voluntary, case-by-case, basis. "There is a strong case for site sharing and RAN sharing allowing a significant decrease in the costs of investment."
A good example, Bienaim said, is in Sweden where a partnership between Tele2 and Telia had led to a "significant decrease in RAN investment." Such flexible thinking, he added, would make the business sustainable in the long term.
"UMTS is a seven year payback period --- it is not a short term investment."
Bienaim also defended the roll out records of incumbent and new entrant 3G operators.
"2003 is the year of the real beginning of 3G in Europe and in 2004 there will be many more. There is now interoperability of the handsets, between the handsets and the network, between networks themselves and handsets availability is better. Most incumbents will launch 2004.
"Suppose most networks are launched by the end of 2005. By comparison with 2G is not a delay comparable with the length of time to 2G.
Bienaim also said that the Forum will be making sure it continues to promote a "common vision" of UMTS development as further licences re awarded in Eastern Europe.
"We will bear the message of global harmonisation of spectrum and the IMT 2000 rules as ratified by the ITU," Bienaim said. These rules must be repeated by new licensing processes, and the Forum will guard against using other spectrum to achieve "back door" 3G like services, particularly in the often unused 450MHz waveband.